Memorization in Classical Western Music PerformanceSibel Kudatgobilik
Klasik Batı Müziği İcrasında Literatür Açısından Ezber OlgusuSibel Kudatgobilik
In musical performance, performing a piece from memory has undeniable importance because it affects the performance. Interpretation from memory, which starts during the education period of musicians continues also during their professional lives. Once the piece to be performed is memorized, one can then move to internalization and interpretation phases. Performing from memory plays an important role in developing performers’ ideas about execution more freely and contributes to deeper, more meaningful sharing of music with the listeners. This article presents important data on how musicians can improve themselves in the subject of memorization. In order to interpret a piece successfully, it is important to learn and memorize it first. Memory is made up of three components: Sensory, short and long term. Long term memory is made up of two components: Declarative and procedural. In the process of memorization, there are four components in effect: Visual (photographic), acoustic, motor (kinetic/fingers), and analytical (intellectual) memory. Each of these four components has a different function. It is necessary that they are all used together and that a strong memorization skill is acquired as a result. Visual (photographic) memory is the cognitive recollection of visual information. Every person has different levels of this kind of memory. Acoustic memory is an involuntary part of the memorization process. It is invaluable for musicians. Motor (kinetic/finger) memory is when movements are recorded during the performance of a piece. It is not an adequate or trustworthy method for dependable memory. Analytical (intellectual) memory is related to cognitive aspects. The ability to do musical analysis is part of the functions of this memory. The process of memory consists of perception, interpretation of sensual perception and the process of putting them together in a meaningful way. Because experienced interpreters are able to perceive works deeply and apply conscious practice strategy, they are able to create a qualified and meaningful interpretation. When a composition is placed in one’s mind with every little detail, placement/internalization is the most procedural part of the memorization process. An experienced musician uses his/her cognitive memory in addition to his/her acoustic memory in order to internalize a composition. He/she then can execute dependable memorization. The repetition of the technical and musical details of the composition to be performed makes the protection of the memorization possible.
In performances without the protection of memorization, motor (kinetic/finger) memory is engaged. This memory is not protected with cognitive awareness. The result is inadequate, unconscious, insecure and automatic memorization. Memorization protection methods should be applied systematically and consciously in order for strong memorization to occur. Perception, placement/internalization, and protection make up the storing part of the memorization process. The aim is a mistake-free recollection. A multi-dimensional recollection is a sign that the memorization is secure.
In the article, the relationship between memorization and anxiety is also addressed. Performance anxiety is a sensation while performing for the audience. It may be as strong as to end careers for many performers. One of the most important reasons of performance anxiety is that the memorization is either inadequate or strong. A performer experiencing this problem will have more anxiety on stage. This anxiety triggers the fear of forgetting and the fear of forgetting effects the performance negatively. The performance of a performer lacking the self-confidence can seriously fall apart. In order for this problem not to occur, the four components that affect the memorization process should be utilized together and attentively as much as possible, the works to be performed should be practiced with awareness in a planned and programmed way. The composition should be divided into sections and motives paying attention to the structural form of the piece. Memorization made in this way would be especially beneficial in difficult and long works.
Some other ways to overcome performance anxiety are yoga, Alexander Technique, muscle relaxation exercises, and breathing techniques. In the article, a literature search regarding this subject is made and factors effective for healthy and secure memorization are addressed. According to this, it’s suggested that the notes of the piece to be performed should be written first by looking at the score and then from memory. Memorization of the left and right hands parts separately can also be beneficial. In addition, the composition that is being memorized should be practiced slower than the original tempo and this would also be beneficial for secure and strong performance. One of the most effective ways in terms of memorization for the performer is mental work. The playing of the piece mentally without an instrument with the feeling of the whole sensory and motor memory is especially beneficial for the memorization of long, difficult technical passages. In this article, suggestions towards the improvement of the memorization process are presented.